Physical Culture Library: John McCallum’s Iconic ‘Get Big Drink’ Article


John McCallum has been covered at several points on this site already. What’s been missing in our discussions has been an insight into just how wonderful his writing style was. McCallum wrote in parables that were simultaneously funny and inspiring. This was best seen in McCallum’s iconic ‘Get Big’ drink article.

The ‘Get Big’ drink was a bulking technique that offered thousands of extra calories in an easy fix. Without delving into the article too much, I’ll stop now by saying that all of McCallum’s articles can be found in The Complete Keys to Progress, available here.

My friend Ollie came over the other night to play chess. He likes playing me on account of I’m the only guy he ever beat. He had me chopped up by the nineteenth move and started in for the kill.

My daughter’s boy friend wandered in from the kitchen eating an onion sandwich.

He sat down and watched.

“Your move,” said Ollie.

“I know, I know,” I said. “I’m thinking.”

I slid a Rook over to cover the Bishop file.

Marvin poked me in the ribs and chortled through a mouthful of bread. “That’s real thinking, Dad.”

“Marvin,” I said. “I’d think a heck of a lot better if you’d quit crunching that lousy sandwich in my ear.”

Ollie shoved a Pawn into my defense. I slumped down and tried to figure an angle.

Marvin went into the kitchen and came back with another sandwich.

Ollie looked puzzled. “Didn’t you eat supper, Marv?”

“But of course, Dad.”

“Then how come you’re eating now?”

I looked up. “I’ll tell you how come. Cause he’s got a gut like a sea gull, that’s how come.”

Marvin took a bite and breathed onion in my face.

I drew a Queen over to back up the Bishop.

“You know,” said Ollie. “I got a nephew trying to gain weight. I don’t suppose he eats like Marv, though.”

“No,” I said. “I don’t suppose. Your move.”

Ollie brought up a Knight and grinned at me. “Want to play it out?

I didn’t answer him.

“Actually,” Ollie said. “The kid’s gaining a bit of weight. But he wants to pack it on real fast.”

I figured the Bishop was dead no matter what I did.

“It’s funny,” Ollie said. “The kid’s training, too. Strange he doesn’t gain faster.

I moved the Queen back.

“Funny how a kid wants to get big real fast,” Ollie said. He looked at me.

“Isn’t it funny?”

“Hilarious,” I said. “Make a move.”

He moved a Pawn.

I dragged the King back out of what was coming.

Ollie took the Bishop.

Marvin went into the kitchen and came back with an orange.

“This business of eating to gain weight interests me,” said Ollie.

Marvin sucked on his orange. He sounded like a foot coming out of wet mud. “Me
too.” He wiped orange off his face. “My uncle got me interested in food.”

I hunched over the board and tried not to hear him.

“Yessir,” he said. “Old Unc was one of the better botanists.”

He’s got a voice like a dentist’s drill.

“Did quite an experiment once.” Marvin dropped orange peel on the table.

“Crossed an Idaho potato with a roll of blotting paper.”

I looked at my Knight and tried to plot a course for it.

“Didn’t taste too good,” Marvin said.

I reached for the Knight.

“Sure soaked up the gravy though.”

I dropped the Knight and screamed at him. “Marvin, will you get the heck out of here.”

“Listen,” Ollie said. “Quit arguing. Do you know anything to make him gain or not?”


“My nephew.”

“For Pete’s sake, Ollie, how do you expect me to play chess with you babbling about your skinny relatives and this nut slobbering in my ear?”

“You’re beat anyway.”

“Like heck.” I slid the Queen into the open. “There.”

Marvin slapped me on the shoulder. “Deep, Dad. Deep.”

I wiped orange juice off my shirt.

Ollie looked at Marvin. “Does he play chess?”

“Are you kidding?” I said. “This is the only kid in town who couldn’t learn to play jacks.”

Ollie thought about it for a moment. “Never mind. Do you know how he can gain fast?”

“If I tell you will you shut up and finish the game?”


“Okay,” I said. “Listen. To gain weight he’s gotta be properly nourished. Right?”


“And when I say properly, I don’t mean properly like for average. I mean properly like for weightlifters. That means a heck of a lot better nourished than most people are.”

“He eats pretty good,” Ollie said.

“Maybe so. But he isn’t getting enough protein and calories or he’d gain faster. He’s gotta shovel in protein like they were giving it away.”

“So what should he do? Eat more?”

“Not exactly,” I said. “Let me finish.”

Marvin was leaning forward with his mouth open.

“You see,” I said. “Protein is the key element for muscles. You just can’t build them on anything else. You gotta get in huge amounts at regular intervals for really big gains.”

“I know,” Ollie said.

“But when I say huge amounts, I mean huge amounts. More than you get in your regular meals. Several times what’s considered normal.”

“Sure,” Ollie said. “But how’s he gonna do that if he can’t do it by eating?”

“I’ll tell you in a minute,” I said. “Let me finish.”


“Now remember,” I said. “This is a crash gaining thing. He oughta gain about five pounds a week on it.”

“He’ll like that,” Ollie said.

“Good. Now, in addition to the protein, he’s gotta get extra calories. He won’t gain without them. He’s gotta get thousands of extra calories.”

“You don’t mean candy and junk like that.”

“No, no. That’s just junk. It’s gotta be protein calories mostly or he’ll just get fat. He’s gotta get a really jazzed up combination of protein and calories.”


“So shut up and listen.” I went and got a drink of water and came back. “Now, the trouble with trying to crash gain on regular meals is you just can’t eat enough to do it.” Ollie looked at Marvin but I beat him to it. “Most people can’t,” I said. “O.K.?”


“So you gotta get the extra nourishment in concentrated form. Right?”


“O.K.,” I said. “That means he needs a supplement.”

“Fine,” said Ollie. “Only what supplement?”

“Mine,” I said. “I call it the ‘Get Big Drink.’”

“The what?”

“The ‘Get Big Drink.’”

“Why do you call it that?”

“Why do you think I call it that? Cause you get big if you drink it, that’s why. You get your nephew to drink it like I tell you and he’ll gain weight like a baby whale.”

“What is it?”

“I’ll tell you,” I said. “But don’t forget this is strictly for fast. You’ll flip when you see how he gains weight.”

“O.K.,” said Ollie. “I’ll flip. Now tell me about it.”

“Alright,” I said. “Listen. Now first of all you get a real good protein supplement. Hoffman’s Gain Weight is best for this purpose. Put at least a day’s supply in a big bowl.”


“Now add two quarts of milk and two cups of skim milk powder and mix it all up.”

“With a blender?”

“If you have one. An egg-beater’ll do.”

“O.K.,” said Ollie. “That’s protein, milk and milk powder. Is that it?”

“No, no. We’re just starting.”

“What’s next?”

“Now dump in two eggs and four tablespoons of peanut butter.”


“Now,” I said. “That makes about 186 grams of the best protein you can get. That’s about what he’d get in four days of normal eating.”

“And that’s it, eh?”

“Not yet. I told you this was for fast. Now we add a little more protein, beef up the calories and make it taste good.”

Marvin was leaning forward. “That’s thinking mint, Dad. I always figured a thing ought to taste good.”

Ollie hauled out a pencil. “I better write this down.”

“Okay,” I said. “Now put in half a brick of chocolate ice cream.”
Marvin straightened up. “Why chocolate? I always like pushin’ strawberry into the old tumtum.”

“Marvin,” I said. “I don’t care if you shovel tutti-frutti in your ear. I like chocolate. O.K.?”

“But of course, Dad.”

“And quit calling me Dad.”

“Listen,” Ollie said. “Quit arguing and give me the rest of it.”

“O.K. Now, with the protein, milk powder, eggs, peanut butter and ice cream we got about 2100 calories. Right?”


“Now put in a small banana.”

“One small banana.”

“Four tablespoons of malted milk powder.”


“Six tablespoons of corn syrup.”

“Hold it,” Ollie said. “Just a minute. How do you spell syrup?”

“How the heck would I know,” I said. “You got the pencil. Spell it any way you want.”

“O.K.” Ollie scratched something down. “There.”

“Now,” I said. “That brings the calories up to about 3000. Right?”

“If you say so.”

“And about 200 grams of protein.”

“Gee,” Ollie said. “You oughta supply an after dinner speaker with that.”

“Sure. When I call it the ‘Get Big Drink,’ I ain’t kidding.”

“So I see. What now?”

“Now pour the whole works into a plastic jug and stick it in the fridge.”

“How long is he supposed to take to drink all that?”

“One day. It makes about ten glasses. He can easy drink that in a day.”

“All at once?”

“No, no. Spread it out. He can take a glass with each of his meals and the rest throughout the day.”

“And he’ll gain weight fast.”

“Absolutely. I guarantee it. He’s supposed to drink it in addition to his meals of course. He could gain around a pound a day for a while if he trains properly too.”

“I oughta try it myself. I wouldn’t mind sticking on about ten pounds.”

“Ollie,” I said. “Anybody who’s trying to gain weight and doesn’t take something like this is nuts. It’s half the battle.”

“How long you figure he should stay on it?”

“As long as he’s trying to gain weight.”

“What about after?”

“He still needs protein. He should stay with the protein supplement and drop the rest of the stuff. That way he’ll hold the muscle and sharpen up a bit.”

“Good,” said Ollie. “I’ll tell him. And thanks a lot.”


“You wanta finish the game?”

“Sure. Who’s move is it?”

“Mine,” Ollie said. He took my Rook’s Pawn. “Check.”

I looked at the board for a long time. “Ollie, old pal,” I said. “I gotta confess it. You’re one heckuva chess player.”

Ollie grinned. “You’re beat?”

“I’m beat.”

Marvin got up and stretched. “Well, Dad, she’s back to the old fridgeroo.”
Ollie looked at me. “What’s that mean?”

“It means he’s getting something more to eat.”

“You’re kidding.” Ollie called into the kitchen. “Marv, are you making another sandwich?”

Marvin stuck his head through the door. “But of course, Dad.”

“What kind?”

“Cheese and wiener.”

Ollie grinned and patted his stomach. “Draw two.”

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